Ruth Jones stars in The Nightin­gales

Bath Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Nancy Con­nolly

The Nightin­gales The­atre Royal Bath

The new play The Nightin­gales star­ring Ruth Jones from Gavin & Stacey is a heart warm­ing and en­joy­able mu­si­cal com­edy with an in­trigu­ing story. The play, which opened in Bath be­fore tour­ing the West End, was writ­ten by ac­tor William Gam­i­nara, best known for play­ing Leo Dal­ton in Silent Wit­ness and Dr Richard Locke in The Archers. The play is set in a vil­lage hall, won­der­fully de­signed by Jonathan Fen­som who has recre­ated beau­ti­fully the at­mos­phere of al­most ev­ery vil­lage hall in the coun­try, com­plete with high win­dows and vel­vet cur­tains and the must have stacked chairs and stark kitchen. Here a lo­cal five part acapella group meet to re­hearse and so­cialise. There’s Steven, 60, the Cam­bridge-ed­u­cated choir­mas­ter, Diane, his younger wife who is des­per­ate for a baby, Ben, who was once a pro­fes­sional ten­nis player mar­ried to Con­nie, who was once a model and Bruno, a young his­tory teacher, who cares for his mother. They are a mot­ley crew, they love them­selves and the weekly two-hour re­hearsal flies by as the au­di­ence is treated to the in­ti­mate se­crets of their per­sonal lives. All is go­ing well for this mid­dle class smug lit­tle group un­til one day new­comer Mag­gie (Ruth Jones) knocks on the door and ev­ery­thing changes. Jones is adorably funny in the role, with her strong Gavin & Stacey Welsh ac­cent, Co-op bags, croc shoes and cheap, mac coat in con­trast to the trendy, well dressed and spo­ken mem­bers of the singing group. All is not what it seems in this small town, Diane is hav­ing a highly sexed af­fair with Bruno and her hus­band Steven knows all about it. There are some spicy scenes when Diane and Bruno have sex on the kitchen ta­ble of the vil­lage hall when re­hearsals have fin­ished, and this is clev­erly done on stage as the set be­comes a split scene for the ac­tion. There is some great com­edy in this new The­atre Royal Bath Pro­duc­tions of­fer­ing. Jones is out­stand­ing and West End au­di­ences will love her, it’s great to see this tal­ented com­edy ac­tress who co-wrote the award win­ning Gavin & Stacey back on stage. Sarah Earn­shaw as the cyn­i­cal north­ern for­mer model Con­nie is hi­lar­i­ous and has a great singing voice. There are some ar­eas which could be tweaked as the pro­duc­tion ma­tures. Some of the script­ing in the first half seems la­bo­ri­ous and lines could be cut to in­crease the pace and make it tighter. The singing and mu­sic is not that strong, but this may be de­lib­er­ate as the group is sup­posed to be medi­ocre, like so many such groups across the coun­try. It is a rel­e­vant piece of the­atre for these times when tele­vi­sion and lo­cal choirs are more pop­u­lar than ever, with pro­grammes such as The Choir and Mil­i­tary Wives. The Nightin­gales is a most en­joy­able play and au­di­ences will be nos­tal­gic for the very Bri­tish tra­di­tion of the vil­lage hall, the ac­tors con­stantly re­fer to the scout group which uses the hall af­ter their re­hearsal. More mu­sic wouldn’t go amiss, ev­ery­one loves acapella and there’s scope for a lot more great songs to be per­formed. There are some great comic lines, cyn­i­cal, acer­bic – a real send up of the Bri­tish mid­dle classes. It is light hearted but with a clever twist in the tale which is a lit­tle pred­i­ca­ble at times. In the end the down-to-earth Mag­gie has the last say over the smooth talk­ing mem­bers of the group who are not re­ally like­able at all and come across as trite and friv­o­lous. Direc­tor Christo­pher Lus­combe has cre­ated a lovely at­mos­phere on stage and au­di­ences will en­joy this in­trigu­ing lit­tle yarn im­mensely. It’s great to have the world pre­miere here on our doorstep and pre­miered in Bath. The Nightin­gales con­tin­ues at the The­atre Royal, Bath un­til Satur­day, Novem­ber 10. For tick­ets call 01225 448844 or visit www.the­atreroyal.org.uk

Pic­ture: Geraint Lewis

Ruth Jones stars as Mag­gie in The Nightin­gales

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